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Holy Spirit

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy to guard against people looking down on him because of his youth. We don’t know how old Timothy is. There may have been some concern that this young pastor may not have enough experience or maturity to fulfill his ministry.

There’s a lot to be said about someone with experience in ministry. Years ago as we began our family, we heard someone teach about raising godly children. He had drawn some practical applications from Scripture. But as we pondered what he said, it dawned on us that this man doesn’t have any children. This man isn’t married either. We decided to take what he said with a proverbial grain of salt. Yes, there are truths which any Believer can mine out of God’s Word. Yes, single men can teach a lot from the Bible about raising godly children. But given the choice of a single man with no children and a man with grown, godly children, I’d take the advice of the older man. Most of us probably would.

Obviously, Timothy wasn’t the most experienced pastor, so Paul told him to show himself to be an example of Christian maturity. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 CSB) Timothy can’t do anything about his age. But he can be an example of how a Believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.

Application

There is an application for all of us here. Yes, Timothy was a church “elder”. But don’t think that there’s a different moral calling for the “ordained” than for the “ordinary”.

All of us are called to live a life of integrity and obedience to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. There will always be people younger in the faith than you. Ordained or not, you can show yourself as an example of how a believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.

I’m not talking about putting on a “holier than thou” front. I’m talking about living a genuine life of growing obedience and dependence on the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And everyone is called to that.

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exam

I’ve had my share of tests. I’ve done well on many. I’ve done poorly on some. In today’s Bible reading, Paul urges the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Actually, Paul asks the Corinthians two question: 1) Are you in the faith? and 2) Do you see Christ in you? Paul implies that if the answer is no, then you don’t pass the test.

Paul uses two different Greek verbs when he asks the questions. The first verb means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing.” [1] The second verb means to “try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use.”[2]

Another way to ask the questions might be, “Examine yourself to see if you’re you a Believer” and “Test yourself as to how genuine your faith is.” In other words, Paul asks the Corinthians quantitative (yes/no?) and qualitative (how well?) elements of the tests. It isn’t enough to say, “Yes I’m a believer.” or “Yes, I adhere to certain religious beliefs.” Paul digs deeper.

Christianity is unlike every religion. Religions are based on believing certain teachings and seeking to appease a deity and/or to rid oneself of deficiencies. Some religions add an element of eternity, others do not.

But Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, established by the sacrificial death of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is completely different when seriously compared to every religion out there.

Application

I believe we need to ask these questions on a regular basis. It keeps us on our toes. It adds a present-day application of our faith test.

I mentioned to our church last Sunday that if you were married several decades ago and you have not had an ongoing and growing relationship with your spouse, something is seriously wrong!” If you claim to have been saved for several decades, but don’t have an ongoing, growing relationship with Jesus, something is seriously wrong!

Christians often rattle off that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But let me ask with Paul, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” and “If so, then how personal is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.
[2] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 331. Print.

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Thorn

If you’ve been around church for a while, you may have heard of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”. Today’s Bible reading includes Paul’s brief discussion of his thorn.

Paul never tells us specifically what his thorn was. Obviously, he was using the word as a metaphor of something else. Some have speculated it was poor eyesight. Some have speculated it was malaria. The truth is, we don’t know what it was. And if we knew, I’m sure someone would find a similar thorn, claim it was Paul’s and proceed to venerate “Paul’s thorn”.

What we do know about Paul’s thorn is that God gave it to him to keep him humble. (2 Corinthians 12:7) Further, Paul’s thorn was a “messenger of Satan”. Paul asked God to remove his thorn, but each time, God told him “no”. God wanted to use Paul’s thorn to show His strength, made perfect in Paul’s weakness.

There are a few things to notice from Paul’s discussion. God doesn’t always do what we ask Him to do, even apostles. God can use all things to work out for our good of becoming more like Jesus, even our weaknesses. God’s grace is sufficient.

Finally, Paul’s thorn was a “messenger of Satan”. The word translated “messenger” is also translated as “angel”. This means that Paul’s thorn was a Satanic angel. Paul — the Apostle, the “spiritual heavyweight” — was demonized. Am I trying to say that Paul was demon possessed? No, because that’s not the language the Bible uses. The Bible doesn’t differentiate between demon possession and demon oppression. The Bible just says “demonized”. And to be demonized is to have a demon.

Application

This may not fit well with what you’ve always heard in church. But that’s what Paul says. So what do you do when you come across something in the Bible that doesn’t fit your preconceived beliefs? It’s important that we stick with what God says in the Bible and adjust our beliefs accordingly.

If Paul could be demonized, then it’s possible for other Believers to be demonized. Even us. Even today. And if a Believer is demonized, he/she should do the same thing Paul did: Ask God to remove the demon and its influence. But if God says, “no”, then we should accept what He has given/allowed and live in closer dependence on the empowering Holy Spirit to live day-to-day until our final deliverance to the other side of eternity. God’s strength can be made perfect in our weaknesses, too.

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Recently, the Parker County Sheriff’s Department (in the county where I pastor) issued a warning about counterfeit money being passed off as being legitimate. In a news conference, they highlighted the easily-discerned marks of these counterfeit bills. Anyone who has handled much money should be able to spot these counterfeits, if you just look at the bills instead of their denominations and the dead president pictures. Instead of noting these were bills of the United States Treasury, these bills clearly state that they are “For Motion Picture Purposes”.

Paul wasn’t happy with the Corinthians. They had lost all semblance of discernment. In fact, in today’s Bible reading, Paul rebukes them for opening wide their doors and accepting people peddling another Jesus, a different Spirit and a different Gospel than what he had preached to them earlier. (2 Corinthians 11:4)

A few years ago, after many hours arguing the details on some tertiary issues with some cultists, it dawned on me that I was arguing the wrong things. Paul squarely hits the nail on the head when he lists these three subjects: Jesus, the Spirit, and the Gospel. Every religion and every cult distort all three of these subjects, or outright reject the historic orthodox Christian belief.

If my doorbell rings tomorrow and some nicely-dressed young men ask me if I want to talk about Heavenly Father’s plan, I’ll invite them in, but I will only discuss three subjects: Jesus, the Spirit, and the Gospel. If an older and younger couple of women knock on my door and ask if I’d like to talk about living forever on Paradise Earth, I’ll invite them in, but I will only discuss three subjects: Jesus, the Spirit, and the Gospel.

I have encouraged classes at church to limit their conversations with cultists and other religious adherents to these three subjects. Why? Because it keeps you on task on three of the most important subjects in light of eternity. If you only discuss three subjects, you know very clearly where you stand on these important doctrines, and you can easily demonstrate where they don’t line up Scripturally … where things really matter.

When discussing the nature of the Gospel in Galatians, Paul says that if anyone — including an angel from heaven — preaches a Gospel contrary to the one he preached, let that person be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

I’ve heard that no one is taught how to recognize counterfeit money. Instead, bank tellers and even the checkers at your local big box retailer are trained in some key features of real money. Just a few months ago, I was waiting for the customer ahead of me to check out, when the checker told the customer she couldn’t accept her $100 bill. The marker the checker used to validate the bill didn’t reveal the correct color. She called in a supervisor who also swiped the bill with the marker and immediately told the customer they couldn’t accept her money. This customer was trying to make off with goods she hadn’t legitimately paid for, and the checker would have been disciplined for accepting funny money.

Application

So how do you recognize spiritual counterfeits? The same way the checker recognized counterfeit money. She was familiar with the real thing. When the customer presented the fake bill, it didn’t bear the marks of the real thing.

The only way you’ll recognize spiritual counterfeit is to know your Bible. Read your Bible. Study your Bible. Read and study with other Believers. Carefully choose whose books you read and whose teachings you listen to and watch. The more familiar you are with the real deal, the more easily you’ll recognize a fake.

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Good Grief, Charlie Brown

Here we are again, looking at frequently-occurring words. Today’s word is grief. It appears in one form or another eight times in only four verses (2 Corinthians 7:7-10) in today’s Bible reading.

The Greek word translated as grief in English means “to be sad as the result of what has happened or what one has done—‘to be sad, to be distressed”[1]

If I were to “grieve you”, I would make you sad. If I knew that I made you sad, I would probably regret doing so. I would be sad for making you sad and I would apologize.

But what if I made you sad in the process of correcting you for doing something wrong? I wouldn’t regret it and I wouldn’t apologize (though I may have to apologize for the way I said it).

This is what Paul says in verse 8. He doesn’t regret making the Corinthians sad because it made them do something: they “repented”. They changed their behavior because of their grief, their sadness.

Regret is an emotional response. It’s “feeling sorry” for doing something. You can regret doing something and that’s the end of it. You may even apologize, but that’s the end of it. But then, you can regret doing something and the grief causes you to do something to correct what you regretted doing. If you do something as a result of the grief, you repent. You change your behavior based on a change of your thinking because of your grief.

Paul says there is a kind of regret, a kind of grief that brings about change. That is godly grief. But Paul also says there’s another kind of grief that doesn’t produce change. That kind of grief — worldly grief — simply results in death. In other words, you feel sorry and no change results from it.

Application

When you sin, you may regret the fact that you sinned. You may be very sad and feel a deep sense of remorse. You may be heartbroken in your grief over your sin. But unless your regret produces a change in your mind that produces a change in your behavior, you have only felt an emotional response in your regret.

On the other hand, godly grief produces the life change that God desires. It’s a kind of grief that affects us on a deeper level than mere emotion. In fact, we may not even feel a deep emotional response, but we change our mindset and our behavior because of the godly grief. And that’s what God wants and that’s what God empowers us to do as we rely on the Holy Spirit’s power.

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 317. Print.

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